The first attack on their working conditions was a 75% cut in their wages, reducing their income to 325.88 euros per month. They then were told that they would be replaced by contract workers which would not only result in a loss of their jobs, but also losing access to a pension and healthcare. They would consequently join the 62.8% of unemployed women in Greece.
'We are 595 women who have been working for many years for the Ministry of Finance. Since 18 September 2013 we have been suspended from our work and on 18 May 2014 we will lose our jobs, we will be fired.
We are all women, and the gender discrimination is obvious. Most of us are over 50. We may never get a pension. Many of us are single parents and the lives of our families depend on our salaries.
The memoranda of austerity policies have deprived us of the right to work and life. Today in Greece unemployment stands at 27% and for women at 62.8%. Until 2005 we were working on short term contracts. After an EU directive and a fine imposed on Greece, our contracts were turned into permanent ones. The Government now claims that we are being fired in order to decrease the public deficit. The truth is that the Greek state pays far more to the private subcontractors which replaced us. For the Greek government and the Troika we are numbers and not human beings.
For 8 months now, since the 18th of September, we have been protesting every day outside the Ministry of Finance. We have gone through an immense struggle that has been dealt with by violence and repression from the Greek government.
They thought we would be an easy target and a weak link because we belong to the lower strata of the working class and because we are women. But, together with ordinary people, together with thousands of fired employees, we've been fighting everyday against the measures of the Greek government and the Troika'.
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One of the first announcements of the new Syriza government two months ago was that the cleaners who had been protesting, would have their jobs reinstated. The announcement came on their 268th day of protest.
I was therefore totally amazed to see that their protest is still going on.
I stopped and talked to them, asking why they were still there and wondering whether I had misunderstood the situation. They confirmed the Syriza government's statement that their jobs would be reinstated, but apparently a bill has to go through Parliament and a whole bureaucratic rigmarole before this can take effect.
My first thought was 'only in Greece....'
I wished them good luck and I hope that they can go back to their jobs soon. They are truly inspirational.